The Full Story Behind the "Stuck Buck" in Coloma
Thanks to the media, nine regional agencies, and literally scores of concerned wildlife lovers, a buck dubbed “El Dorado” was dramatically rescued Friday night from his entanglement with a bright blue volley ball net and barbed wire fencing upon historic Mt. Murphy.
The dilemma of the 4-point buck was discovered along a disputed boundary area when Laurel Stroud and I took our golden retrievers for a walk around 2:00 Friday afternoon. It appeared a blue tarp was caught in his antlers and the billow snagged in barbed wire. The more he struggled, the more crazily the tarp ballooned around his head. Since the thrashing of the buck was exacerbated by our presence, we took the dogs back to the house where I called the Marshall Gold Discovery Park for assistance.
A few minutes later ranger Eric Carter arrived to assess the plight of the entangled deer. It was very obvious this was a dangerous situation that would require professionals to tranquilize and successfully free the critter without getting gored or hoofed. Eric returned to the Park headquarters to call Fish & Wildlife for professional help. Pretty much as expected, F&W refused to assist despite several requests to do what they are reasonably expected to do. It should be noted however, that there are only 3 F&W wardens to cover the entirety of EDC.
Animal Control was then contacted. They too were not equipped to help, so Sierra Wildlife Rescue was contacted. However SWR won’t rescue anything larger than a fawn, nor do they have access to tranquilizers.
By this time lots of advice was pouring in. At the suggestion of a friend, I then contacted the media to get involved. Channel 13 was the first to respond and Fox 40 soon followed my request for coverage of an animal-in-distress within the Marshall Gold Discovery Historic State Park region.
Meanwhile I made another call to Park Superintendent Jeremy McReynolds to use whatever authority he had with CA State Parks to move mountains and get Fish & Wildlife to respond appropriately.
It was after dark when the Fox 40 and Channel 13 media crews arrived with lights, cameras and high-tech equipment. However the Fox 40 media truck couldn’t capture a decent signal for a live televised rescue.
By this time Channel 13 staff had been busy making calls to proper authorities in Sacramento. John from Sac Metro Fire acted as the coordinator with UC Davis VERT (Veterinary Emergency Response Team) who then contacted Coloma-Lotus Fire and Sheriff D’Agostini’s office. Although EDSO deputies Schofield and Sprague arrived first to assess the situation, I felt it prudent not to further distress and endanger the buck with a parade of people who weren’t properly equipped or trained to help in this situation. I want to publicly thank them for their response and especially for respecting my wishes to limit access to the rescue site for the safety of the stressed buck.
Fire Battalion Chief Mike Pott arrived a few minutes before 10 PM with two firefighters in full gear to assess the situation. Instead of walking them down the hill into the ravine which would further agitate the buck, I directed them downstairs to watch close-up footage on the 10 o’clock Channel 13 news.
Just moments after the newscast, the station was inundated with calls. One wildlife professional from Auburn was given my phone number, so when he called I turned on the speaker phone so the firemen could hear his advice.
It was wisely determined that Chief Pott would not jeopardize the safety of his team in the pitch of night on a steep slope without the animal being sedated. However it would require F&W involvement. Problem was F&W refused to respond appropriately.
The back-up plan was to have an experienced wildlife team on standby for a coordinated rescue in the morning daylight. That meant the trapped buck could potentially end up as a cougar’s midnight snack. We’d just have to wait to see what response there would be from the Channel 13 newscast.
Around 11 PM I received a call from James at CA State Parks informing me that 3 F&W wardens would be responding in approximately an hour. About 15 minutes later I received a call from Warden Patrick Foy. Problem was, he was alone and was about an hour away in Sacramento. That’s when I referred him to Chief Pott who had agreed to assist with the rescue ONLY if he was assured the animal was sedated. I alerted the media in order to record the rescue for follow up on the news.
Around 12:30 AM two F&W vehicles arrived in front of my door. I grabbed a jacket and headed outside where I ran straight into a heated argument between Warden Patrick Foy and Warden John Laughlin in the driveway. Laughlin was clearly unhappy that the media was involved and that Foy had agreed to wait for their arrival. I turned around and headed back into the house to grab my audio recorder and waited for the guys to settle their argument.
When they finally rang the doorbell, I was confronted tersely by Laughlin who demanded I show him the buck so he could assess the situation. I informed him that Fox 40 would be there momentarily then we’d ALL make one trip together so as not to unnecessarily distress the buck with multiple treks into the woods. That didn’t go over well with Laughlin who accused me of being uncooperative, hindering the safety of the buck and costing F&W overtime. I calmly asserted that waiting 5-10 minutes maximum until Dan from Fox 40 arrived to record the rescue really wouldn’t make much of a difference. That’s when Laughlin launched into attack mode about making this a “media production.” (Why wouldn’t F&W respond to multiple requests earlier in the day???)
Right about then Chief Pott showed up on the scene. I made introductions and insisted we’d wait until Dan from Fox 40 arrived. Laughlin threatened to leave and told Chief Pott to talk to me while the two wardens conversed at the end of the sidewalk. As expected, Laughlin’s unprofessional demeanor affirmed the conversation we had earlier in the evening about the poor reputation F&W has earned for itself. Additionally F&W is notoriously known for killing rather than rescuing wildlife. It was just such an attitude and negative experience that residents have been reticent to call upon F&W for rescue assistance.
Next thing I see Laughlin & Foy get in their vehicles, back out the gate, drive down the road to the lower side of my yard and park their cars so nobody can get past them on Mt. Murphy Road.
About 5 minutes later Dan walks in my driveway with his camera equipment on his shoulders informing me that the road was road blocked by F&W. Had there been an emergency, no vehicles could get past the roadblock where the reporter’s vehicle was parked.
By this time 3 flashlights were searching the mesh fence line on my neighbor’s property. Apparently they’d made the decision to circumvent my authority and were on a quest to find the stuck buck on their own without the media coverage.
When I called out to F&W to join us in the opposite direction, they marched through the front gate obviously agitated. I’d prepped the camera man in advance what to expect so he’d already turned on the audio of his camera. My own recorder captured every word of the exchange that followed.
The real issue was the media was involved and F&W was embarrassed by their lack of control over the situation.
Laughlin became very huffy and tried to take charge as both wardens headed independently in the WRONG direction into the darkness. I called a halt and requested to see the tranquilizer gun that would be used to sedate the buck. Dan already had the camera rolling when Foy refused my request. I firmly repeated my request to see that they’d actually brought tranquilizer equipment with them. Again both wardens refused to cooperate and threatened to leave the premises.
At that point I very firmly asserted this was private property where I had total authority over my 10 acre domain. Nobody was going anywhere until there was an immediate attitude adjustment and I was assured they were willing to assist with a wildlife rescue. If they decided to leave rather than cooperate, then they’d have a pretty tough time explaining that to the media.
Foy struggled to regain his composure as he explained the tranquilizer & alternate options were in his vehicle…parked down on Mt. Murphy Road. Without further argument, they followed my lead into the ravine. The Fox 40 camera was rolling the entire time.
When we arrived at the site, it was determined the stuck buck fortunately was not physically injured. Therefore multiple options were discussed. The buck was confined to an area tethered by a 6-8 foot piece of barbed wire entangled in the volley ball net that was by now matted like a skullcap with a tassel around the base of his antlers.
It was necessary for all 3 wardens to head back uphill to retrieve their equipment while the rest of us stood shivering quietly in the dark so as not to agitate the deer until they returned. Right around that time a skunk made its presence known…
Finally the wardens trooped down into the woods and outlined the plan of action in hushed tones. The first and safest option was a tazer used to incapacitate the buck. If that didn’t work successfully, then a tranquilizer would be administered via a 2-piece metal blow-pipe device. My role was to hold two lights on the buck while Dan kept the camera light focused on the rescue mission. An 18 year old F&W trainee also assisted with flashlights.
Down the steep slope, over two fences and through the poison oak we all moved into position around the stuck buck. Two of the flashlights were already beginning to fade.
The tazer took down the deer immediately as the wardens went to work with wire cutters on the wild blue wig. Unfortunately the cutters weren’t sufficient to cut off the volleyball net so the majority of his cap remained in the antlers which would soon be shed in the coming weeks. The clicking current of the tazer could be heard arcing off the barbed wire while the wardens worked rapidly to free El Dorado before he leaped back to life.
Everyone jumped out of the way as the buck recovered from the taze, leaped to his feet and then stood frozen against a tree for several minutes with his rump to the camera.
Finally one of the wardens approached his rump within arm reach, clapped his hands simultaneously shouting in order to get the buck to flee. The freed buck circled the tree and bolted towards the camera man, then made an abrupt 90 degree exit up the steep face of Mt. Murphy.
Mission accomplished, an exhausted but jubilant rescue team huffed and puffed silently once again back up the hill.
Rather than come back later in the day to do a follow up, Dan decided to stick around to interview me. Warden Foy also wanted to be sure to give his perspective of the rescue, so I suggested the 3 of us head indoors where there was better lighting in my warm office.
Pat Foy happens to be the public relations contact for Sacramento F&W, so I was amazed by the opportunity that the reporter permitted me to conduct the interview questions. I was even encouraged to include the confrontational incident when the F&W team first arrived on the scene.
By 3 AM we’d had a full day, congratulated everyone for a job well done and headed for hibernation in warm beds.
At 6:30 AM I was awakened by a series of phone calls concerning the status of the rescue and the response to the 10 PM newscast. Yikes! I had yet to contact all those who were still on standby to do a daylight rescue.
Thanks to everyone who responded to the dilemma initially aired by Channel 13 and the rescue covered by Fox 40. The media did an outstanding job. There are too many to mention by name, but you know who you are. (The links to the rescue of the stuck buck follow this update.) I’ve met some wonderful wildlife lovers all over northern California with valuable experience who are willing to contribute their time & resources for the next wildlife rescue.
Last but not least, I’d also like to acknowledge the personal phone call and apology I received Sunday evening from Warden Patrick Foy. That is the mark of a true wildlife professional. On behalf of Coloma residents, we sincerely thank you.
CBS13 - ONLY ONE STORY FROM 10PM LAST NIGHT ( I THINK THAT'S THE SHOW IT AIRED ON)
Also, several newspapers and affiliates picked it up. You'll see it popping up around USA for next few days.
Serving the community,
Founder – Compass2Truth
Conservatives Serving God, Truth and Liberty